Monday, December 29, 2014

Gettysburg Devils and Details

At last things are quieting down. The rattle of dice and moans of low rolling commanders have died away. Actually, I'm not sure why I thought there would be quiet time during the holidays for me to sneak off to my room for several hours to play a game but in any event I managed it a turn or 2 at a time averaging about 10 minutes a turn or around 2 hours to play 12 turns. Less on the early turns or when everyone was committed, a bit more when I was uncertain about when to commit reserves or risk a renewed assault. Once again the result was fairly close to the original battle which probably indicates my failure to come up with a better plan. Mind you once again the Yankee die rolling caused unnaturally high casualties on the Rebs making it a narrow Reb victory rather than a decisive one.

Heth's boys go in around 10:30.
It felt really good to see the boys out in their normal units and I decided the rules would be adapted if necessary to keep it that way even if they were now Brigades rather than Regiments. I like having the 20's organized to do something different than the 40's so this will stick with a certain amount of OS fudging of scale to fight bigger and smaller battles. A small battle with a few divisions aside will make for a quick 1 hour game while as large a battle as can be squeezed onto my table would fill an afternoon or evening.

Here they come again! After rallying,  Heth's boys attack again  Seminary Ridge and bounce as Pender arrives but they do have a foothold on Macpherson Ridge. 
The supernumeries I based up last year, buglers, drummers, nco's etc threw me for a loop as I had redone the rules in a way that they didn't have a role and there was a moment or 2 of hesitation before deciding that I liked them too much to not use them and decided to add them as a gimmick for gamers to play with, a use and discard advantage for units to use at an appropriate time, 1 for regulars, 2 or 3 for elite/crack/veteran units.

Kinch's  errr sorry.... Rodes's.. Division deploys and attacks.
I'm not used to writing rules or thinking about at this level of battle, actually I'm not that familiar with playing games at this level either despite a year of Fire& Fury  and a fair amount of Volley & Bayonet 15 years ago and a handful of others over the years. My scale hat was constantly elbowing my game hat until it got almost violent at times. Eventually though compromises began to surface so, for example, there are some rather long ranges and after banishing post combat advances as being at an inappropriate scale I had to put them back in to satisfy expectations. On the whole they are back very close to past versions of the Square Brigadier but better.
The Yankee line fights hard but holes appear  just as Early's men appear on an off camera  corner of the table
Seeing the 3 stand regiments was too big a temptation and I hurriedly rewrote the rules into an older format based on stands not units. It worked OK but required more and more changes until the idea of a common format was lost without being so different as to be easy to remember. I made time to undo things so that the portable and full versions would use the same rules, the visual effect being the main difference and the various gridded games will have a similar format with era and scale specific differences. This will make it easy for me to switch between rules and periods relying on a combination of different troop and weapon types, scales and scenarios to give each of the collections their own flavour. Currently, long term, that will be 25mm Medieval/fantasy, 40mm  War of 1812 (small battles), 1/72nd ACW (battles)  and 40mm/1/72nd  late 19th/early 20th C. (Tabletop Teasers) .

They're Runnin'!  The Yankee first line disintegrates but there are reserves and the fighting has not been one sided. Hill's Corps is pretty much exhausted as well.  
All that remains now is to fix up some corps commander stands and add some more Division commanders to replace borrowed cavalry, add some missing flags, organize the artillery parks into something more user friendly and attractive than the current mix of huge stands or loose figures, and get the cavalry sorted and make more fences. Then I can think about adding another 300 infantry for the big battles :)..  

Early's men charge in and blow the line back through Gettysburg but as they hit the tattered remnants of the first line, regrouping in town, the dice desert them and the fight bogs down. They'll take the town but not until after the Union XII Corps has arrived.  
But first a last Gathering of Hosts game, probably on New Year's Eve leaving the next Toy Soldier game till next year.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Here They Come Again!

The game is a table!

Since I'm not ready to play the full second day I  taped off a corner of the table, a bit over 1/2 the possible playing area, and just laid out the 1st day terrain. The larger number of 4" squares made it easier as hoped.
Masking tape roads and railway cuts won't earn any beauty awards but they are fast and flexible.

 I did investigate the possible of scaling each brigade to match historical totals but in most cases the total stands per division ended up the same as using standard sized brigade units so I went the easy  OS route and all brigades are 3 strong except 2 in the VI corps which are short a stand to correct the Divisional numbers.

Hopefully I'll finish the game tomorrow and have time for a fantasy medieval game then a year end Toy Soldier game.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas Christmas on the Table Top.

The dice have now fallen silent for a Christmas Truce.

But.........not before I posted a page for the revamped rules to be used in the next game. So I present: The Square Major General.

These are a level higher than the Square Brigadier and have an improved turn sequence and unit structure based in part on various experiments over the last 6 months. Once proved in action, the structure will spread to the other rules in the series with amendments appropriate to the various periods and lower scales such as longer game ranges, lower levels of unit and a bit more in the way of unit tactics.

The Major General part of the name should probably be Lt General or just General since the player will be a Corps or Army commander but how could I resist?

I wish a Happy Yuletide to All!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Deposit on the Devil's Bill

This Gettysburg game was my 3rd go at fitting a major ACW battle onto my table using Brigades as units.  (There were also 2 smaller battles played  with Regiments as units, (Belmont & Kernstown).
Last year I played Picket's Charge as a bathtubbed game fielding one of my 3 or 4 stand regiments for each brigade and reducing the battlefield to match but not adjusting the rules. The year before I played Bull Run  as a gridded game using 500 yds per grid area and 1,000 - 1,500 men per 2 stand unit. I had originally planned to use that scale for this game but compressed it again to 750 yds/square and 2,000 men per unit, so that I could fit the whole of the 3 day battle onto my main table.

End of  2nd or 11:00 turn. Heth's late morning attack has been repulsed by Meredith with Reynolds narrowly escaping death. 
Translating the scenario map onto my table gave me some grief but it wasn't until I played 2 turns and then went digging that I realized what the main problem was. Most of the heavy action was supposed to be happening in the two rows of  9cm squares along the table edge! This meant units attacking from off table and being forced to retreat off it. If I had just turned the map sideways I could have added 2 more rows of squares allowing some room to maneuver but I wasn't about to reset again and decided to press ahead after adjusting Macpherson's Ridge so that it met Seminary Ridge at the base of Culp's Hill.

Through out the game, the crunch of trying to physically fit the troops into the grid along with the difficulty of spotting faint temporary lines on top of terrain gave me serious headaches only over come by agreeable opponents (It was a solo game.). If I had followed either my initial plan of using my main table, or had gone ahead with using my permanent portable board with 1 stand per unit, this difficulties would not have arisen.
End 12:00 turn. Reinforcements are pouring on while indecisive combat rages  (or smolders, it was an unlucky dice turn).
Apart from that, and some minor rule glitches, the game progressed well (lasted about 1 1/2 hours), was fun with some tension and reached a very reasonable conclusion with the Rebs doing not quite as well as on the day. They managed to drive the Federals back onto Cemetery and Culp's Hills but they took too long to do it and suffered too many losses.  In large parts their difficulties were due to better rolling by the Boys in Blue but the over crowding had its effect as did the small number of 1 hour turns in conjunction with the rules. I'm not sure a better plan could have been extracted from the start positions without more room and more turns but this as well as the rules can all be tweaked.

By the end of the 15:00 turn, Macpherson's Ridge is still being disputed but Rodes Division is making itself felt.
When I compare this game to the Bull Run and Picket's Charge games, it was OK but not as good as either. As a quick, portable game, there was too much terrain, too many figures and too little room in crucial areas while other areas were not used at all. For a full game it was too crowded and too short.

As for the rules, there were a couple of issues. One is that I had made changes to how I normally handle support and for engaging units which are not aligned and the new rules just didn't feel right. Another is that given the long time frame, I needed an intermediate combat result between draw and total defeat.  A third minor issue was trying to track the relatively large number of Division Commanders against a fair number of adhoc units when trying to figure out who was commanding who, all made worse by congestion.

My real intent had been to fit big battles on my main table not as portable games. The Picket's Charge game was good but I need to fit larger armies onto much larger battlegrounds. The Bull Run game was a better fit so my plan is to go to 1/2 hour turns instead of 1 hour turns and 500 yards per 4" square instead of 750 yds.  With more room, with units able to appear in their normal configuration and with space for Generals in with their units, I should be able to track things more easily. Once I tweak the rules, clear the wrapping stuff off my table and get it set up, and get past the family time stuff, I intend to replay the game.  
An hour later Heth is down and his Division has taken heavy losses but the Yankees are being pushed back all along tbe line. During the final turn the parts of the  Yankee army that weren't fleeing were retreating to avoid being cut off but the town had not fallen and it would be dark before Ewell would be able to launch an attack on Culp's Hill. Losses were heavy on both sides but a narrow Union victory I think.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I managed to play out my "Gettsburg on a Cardtable" game Friday night and Saturday but writing it up is proving harder. Hopefully it'll get done on Monday.

In the meantime here is a teaser from mid game. 

On the right, in the foreground, the Yankees moving down the Baltimore Pike where the Emitsburg Road meets it, are marching past the future site of the Greystone American History Store, books and toy soldiers! I remember when Tom, Bruce, and I were driving in from Cold Wars looking for the Battlefield when one of us spotted Toy  Soldiers in a window as we went by. "Stop! Toy Soldiers! Park the car!".....Good times.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Very Good! Now do it again.

Everyone has skills, interpreting maps has never been one of mine. I can understand on some intellectual plane what all the various squiggles are supposed to mean and can work out what they are supposed to tell me but it doesn't help. I just don't see it in my head. This is one reason why I avoid board and computer games and, ah, may not exactly excel at navigation.

Anyway, the bottom of the scenario map was quite busy so I ah... mumble .. started with the easy bits when I started laying down roads and rivers onto the board. This involves the tremendously difficult task of taking the stuff in one grid square on the map and copying it onto the equivalent grid square on the table. The one in the appropriate position, maintaining the appropriate orientation. It is probably related in some way to dyslexia....  anyway eventually it was all looking pretty good until I got to the busy bit near the bottom, around Seminary and McPherson Ridges. I started adding the hills and realized it wasn't going to fit! Huh?

I had a table grid square for each map grid square plus an extra row on each side. If I'm mapping one for one, how can it not fit? Let me add some of the starting units...Ahhhh.  Suddenly I grasped why my subconscious had sensed a problem. (I still can't figure out how my conscious mind didn't grasp the significance  of  what I had been looking at.) The 12" Fire & Fury squares in that busy section were not aligned as conveniently with the terrain as they were in most areas and in particular, the narrow ridges with a slight hollow between them, overlapped the grid lines and in any case were 1/2 the width of my wooden block hills.

Gettysburg 2nd try. Sort of works but extra room on the far edge, not enough on the near edge. 

I decided to make use of the spare row of squares and separate the ridges despite the slight distortion and it seemed to work ok. I went back to placing units and.....right. According to the map some opposing units are already sharing a 12" grid square which with an 8" musket range is only a minor bit of being committed since before the start, but it doesn't work with the proposed rules even if I could physically fit them in the same square!

Three options occurred to me: "Get over it and play", back up the time and have the Rebs move on table and into contact on turn 1 or rip up the masking tape rivers and roads and move everything up 1 row leaving 2 extra rows at the bottom and then roll back the time so the Rebs can start on table but out of contact.
But.but..sighhhh.... Rippppppp.

Reynolds to Buford in the bell tower: "Now can you hold John?" "I reckon I can."

OK, its not perfect but  it'll do and "There's the Devil to pay!".

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hard Slogging

This is trickier than it seemed. Its amazing just how hard it is to abandon old habits of thought and expectations but things that work for more tactical games often don't work so well for higher level games. (and yes I 'knew' this going in but still.....) However, I am making progress!

To make my life easier and for clarity in the future, instead of hiding my work until after the game has been played, or posting twice daily versions so people can follow my progress and play the versions I have rejected,  I am updating the rules as originally posted on the 16th and will explain the changes and issues in separate posts.

As 2 of the 12 participating Divisions finish up today's rehearsals, the props department starts rolling out masking tape, paint and the like to turn the empty grid into the Gettysburg Battlefield.

One of the big issues has been trying to work in artillery bombardments when the distances are so short and time per period so long. Another has been trying to balance combat resolution to find a happy ground between instant vaporization and endless die rolling without result all while giving the defender a benefit. Lastly, because distances are so great, its been tricky finding an easy way to do pinning attacks vs all out assaults when both should really be done when adjacent.

I decided to give up relying on the play sequence to give the defence a bonus and switched to a modifier. This allowed me to play around with play sequences and get one mutual combat resolution per turn. Then I took a page from Bob Cordery and implemented a shared  Bombardment phase at the beginning of the turn but included infantry Skirmishing in the same phase.

So the current sequence is:
Roll for Initiative with winner choosing 1st or 2nd move.
Shared Bombardment & Skirmishing phase for units not adjacent to enemy.
A moves
B moves
Shared Combat resolution phase for adjacent enemy units.

I then modified the combat rules to give benefits to units that didn't move and penalties if disordered or attacking a terrain feature or entrenchment. Some quick mini-tests, Division vs Division, have been encouraging so I am back to plotting masking tape roads and rivers for a test game. I'm hoping that the 1st Day Scenario (or mid Day since it leaves out the early and late fighting)  can be resolved in about an hour. That would suggest that the whole 3 day battle could then be done in a day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gettysburg: OB and Rules Rethought and Reposted (and Updated)

Note: I really should stop blogging when I'm still recovering from the flu and short on time to boot!  The original post was not ready with rules ideas not fully thought through let alone tested. Then I accidently wiped it out. So, its basically gone, and this is a new post to replace it.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the very different scale from what I am used to. With one hour turns, 2,000 man "units" and  each square being over 700 yards, all tactical detail is out of place and artillery has to close in to what looks like medium rifle range to my Airfix guys. When I tried the layout on my flocked cardtable board, I only needed 2/3 of the small board and the area from Culps Hill to Little Round Top fit but it just looked wrong vs the size and density of the figures. I was tempted to give it up and go back to a Hearts of Tin derivative using 500 yds  per square (which is where the confusion came in yesterday) but I persevered and found that the portable board with fewer large squares is a better fit and gives the same general effect as the full table but  covering only 1/2 the battle field whereas the full table can hold all of it (with a bit of scrunching).

I'm not sure yet if I'll like the look or the rules despite some brief testing today but it will allow me to fit most of most large ACW battles of my table as a playable afternoon game which means, at the moment,  it will give me something different from my other collections and periods. Of course I still have the option of bathtubbing the battles using the Square Brigadier.

Please Note that the following rough ideas have been replaced by The Square Major General.

Scales and Organization.
Each Grid Area is a distance of around 500 to 750 yards varying by scenario and table size.
Each "unit" represents an average of 1,500 to 2,000 men or 20 guns depending on scale.
Units are grouped into Divisions with a Division Commander.
Divisions are commanded by a Corps Commander.

Rules Summary. as of 24 Dec 
Initiative. At the start of each turn each side rolls a die. The high score may choose to go 1st or 2nd that turn. A tie uses the sequence from last turn. One side may be given a +1 for a given scenario.
Bombardment Phase. Both Player's resolve Artillery Bombardment and Skirmisher Fire.
1st Player Moves or Rallies units.
2nd Player Moves or Rallies units.
Combat Phase. Both Players resolve Skirmish Fire and  Combat between adjacent units.

Bombardment and Skirmish Fire.  Both player's may roll for the effect of artillery bombardment and skirmish fire by units which are not adjacent to an enemy then the hits are applied. Artillery which bombards may not move that turn.
Infantry and dismounted cavalry roll 1 die per unit at ranges up to 2.
Artillery rolls 2 dice against a target within 4 areas.
-1 die vs a target in cover.
Effect: Each 5,6 hits

Infantry 1 in woods or other bad going or if having fired skirmish fire this turn, 2 in open, 3 if column on road.
Artillery 1 in open woods or across ford or passable hill, 2 in open, 3 on road,
Cavalry 1 in open woods or across ford or if having fired skirmish fire this turn, 3 mounted in the open, 4 in column on road.
Must face corner or edge after move.
A unit must halt when moving adjacent to the enemy. A unit moving into an area containing an obstacle such as an abatis which is adjacent to the enemy becomes disordered.

Detached Units and Generals.
If a Division Commander is not within 6 areas and line of sight of his Corps Commander he must roll 4,5,6 to move. If a unit is not within 3 areas and line of sight of its Division Commander it must roll 4,5,6 to move.

Must be adjacent to an enemy. If there is an enemy sharing a side it must be the target. If there is no enemy sharing a side then an enemy sharing a corner may be fought. If there are 2 equal priority targets a unit may split dice.
All units roll a base of 3 dice.

+1 if unit did not move this turn
-1 die if the enemy is fortified
-1 die if disordered or flanked or if the enemy is defending a terrain obstacle, steep hill or cover.

Effect: Each 5,6 causes a hit.

Combat Resolution. Once all hits have taken effect, remove any units that are destroyed. Any unit that is adjacent to an enemy and suffered more hits than it took from skirmishing and combat  must retreat a full move in disorder. If, after retreats are carried out,  mounted cavalry are still adjacent to enemy they must retreat a full move in disorder.

Disorder. Disordered unit may not move except to retreat if adjacent to the enemy. A disordered unit which does not move may remove the disorder.

Morale. Regular units are removed after 4 hits, Elite after 5, Green after 3. A Division which has lost 1/2 of its units is demoralized and its units may not move adjacent to the enemy.

Order of Battle for The 1st Day at Gettysburg, adapted from Fire & Fury.
The scenario runs from 10:00 turn to 17:00 turn
or 8 turns.

CSA  (2 Corps Cdr, 4 Div Cdr, 15 inf units, 6 guns )

On Table (10:00)
Heth  Div Cdr
4 Infantry
2 Guns

12:00 Chambersberg Pike
AP Hill  Corps Cdr
Pender  Div Cdr
4 Infantry  (Deployed)
2 Guns

13:00 OakHill
Ewell Corps Cdr
Rodes Div Cdr
4 Infantry
1 Gun

14:00 Harrisburg Road
Early Div Cdr
3 Elite Infantry
1 Gun

USA  (2 Corps Cdr, 6 Div Cdr, 2 Cav, 10 Inf, 4 guns)

On Table (10:00)
Buford Div Cdr (May be ordered by Reynolds)
2 Cavalry
1 Gun

Reynolds  I Corps Cdr
Wadsworth Div Cdr
1 Elite Infantry
1 Infantry

Doubleday Div Cdr
2 Infantry
1 Gun

11:00  Emmitsburg Rd
Robinson Div Cdr
2 Infantry
1 Gun

11:00 Taneytown Rd
Schurz Div Cdr
2 Green Infantry

12:00 Emmitsburg Rd
Howard XI Corps Cdr
Barlow Div Cdr
2 Green Infantry
1 Gun
Von Steinwehr
2 Green Infantry
1 Gun

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rethinking Quick Gettysburg

Today I worked out the OB for my easy Gettysburg test game by modifying the OB   from the Fire & Fury scenario to a 500 men or 20 guns per stand instead of 200 men or 10 guns.

Heth's Division,
roughly 1/4 of the Reb army

Once done the total came to 86 infantry stands, 5 cavalry, 9 guns and 16 Corps and Division Generals or roughly 550 figures. This is about 2/3 of my painted 1/72 ACW but more Generals than I have. Doing the whole second day was going to need a couple of hundred figures from the Plastic Pile painted up, or splitting the battle into segments.

A quick test of the back of a tablet rules suggested that Heth's attack would take about 15 minutes to resolve, probably in a fairly random manner. I can live with quick and fandom results for a game that takes 20 minutes to set up and an hour to play but a game that will take an hour to set up and 1/2 hour to play and wants me to paint up a bunch more figures? That's not what I had in mind. Back to the drawing board.

I've been reluctant to let go of Brigades as units because of the iconic status of the Iron, Stonewall and other Brigades. However, keeping track of a dozen 2 and 3 stand brigades in similar uniforms on each side is not a task I look forward to.  It would be much easier though to just identify the Divisions and give them an appropriate number of stands using a convenient ratio perhaps 1:800 and not worry about brigades. Going with generic 1 grid square units worked well for Bull Run.  I'm also revisiting the rules from 2 years ago and pondering my Battle Cry dice.

Something will emerge!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Curse you Archduke cried MacDuff

Well, its probably more the fault of a fevered and sleep deprived brain after 5 days of the dreaded Mankold but the Archduke's latest post has re-sparked my interest in my nearly forgotten ACW big battle  ideas from 2012.

Bull Run from 2012

The thoughts that follow are not an extension of or replacement for what the Archduke is doing. Its just that his Big Battles for Small Tables stuff is stirring old thoughts.

Should the idea survive the Mankold bug, I propose to try the Fire & Fury Gettysburg scenarios, at 1/2 scale. It was tempting to go with 1 square on my table = 1 12" grid square on their layout or about 700 yds and 1 stand per 1,000 men but I'm not ready to go there yet. Instead I'll have to do the work to turn 4 map grids into 9 table grids.

To do the battlefield from Oakhill to Big Round Top would need a 7 ft table vs my 6 footer or would need a reset for day 2 but a fudge is more likely. Each of my stands will be about 500 men with Brigades (2 -4 stands) as basic units grouped into Divisions and Corps. Artillery stands will represent 16 to 18 guns.

Play sequence will be that currently used for the Tin Brigadier with a dice off for initiative then A moves, B shoots, resolve Assault combat, B moves, A shoots, resolve Assault combat. Due to the grid scales assaults will change from moving adjacent to moving into contact.

Movement for infantry and artillery will be 2 in the open, 1 in bad going, 3 by road in column. Cavalry and horse artillery 3 in the open, 4 by road and none in bad going. Units not with 3 sq of Div cdr must roll 5,6 to move. Div Cdr not within 3 of Corps or Army Cdr must roll 4,5 6 to move.

Infantry fire will be 1 die per stand if adjacent or 2 in assaults inc defensive fire Artillery 3d if defending against an assault o/w 2d up to 4 squares. 5,6 hits. +1 if assaulting or if mounted cavalry in the open countercharging instead of firing. Targets in cover suffer 1/2.

Each hit removes a stand. In assaults the side losing more retreats a full move in disorder. (Fight 1/2). Roll 4,5,6 to rally, 1,2,3 retreat a move in disorder. +1 for Corps Cdr. +1 for Crack unit -1 for Green unit.

Div having lost 1/2 stands must retreat in t 2 moves and may not attack again that day.
Kinch's Charge from July 2013

No promises but it would be nice to get the ACW Airfix out 1 more time this year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An Elf Might be Handy

Not dead yet! This is one of the seasons of the year when hobby time and energy are at their lowest. Even when I am find myself free of seasonal social and domestic calls on my time and winter preparations for property and house, I am often too tired (or sick) to make good use of a spare hour at my disposal. But it never completely ends, a few newly painted OS 25mm medievals have appeared on the Gathering of Hosts and I nabbed a small sheet of foam core on an Xmas shopping expedition and have begun construction of some grid friendly towns. Or rather, I have begun seriously thinking about the same.
There was a crooked man who built a crooked house....

If I was doing historical WW1 in France there is lots of photographic evidence not to mention loads of impressive 28mm models to draw inspiration from (or be intimidated by). If I were doing a Little Wars project there are illustrations in Little Wars and Floor Games to copy. But for Atlantica.....well, its up to me isn't it? Except that we already know from past blog photos that towns in the Europeanized parts have a certain Anglo-American Victorian Christmas-y sort of air about them and it is on record that the Atlantic natives favoured log construction with sod or wooden roofs though there is also some evidence in one area of adobe with flat roofs with parapets, just right for placing troops. I've started scouring books and the net for photos of turn of the last century Canadian buildings, especially out west as Oerburg doubtless has similar architecture while Faraway is much closer to Nova Scotia with occasional touches of Quebec.  

Size is a major concern. The buildings must be small enough to fit the grid while being tall enough to allow the eye to forgive the scale discrepancy when seen next to the 40mm toy soldiers. There are also the delicate issues of fitting in roads and of placing garrisons. Having talked myself out of an explosion of flat topped adobe building with parapets, its going to have to be either the removable roof route or Grant's hidden ruins, or a mix. The battered ruins do have a certain 20thC air to them.

Roads are trickier, ideally the houses should share a square with the road but with the larger solid buildings, that just has not been an option so the towns are just a little larger and I have to remember that the road through town should still have limited visibility past a town. Over all it is the easiest route so I will work on the rules for that and for ways to show that a road past a single house is part of the town if the house is a town but not if it is an isolated farm. Something along the lines of a stone wall and cobbled street perhaps?

Archive shot of a typical Atlantican town with a full square width road between town blocks (aka buildings).

In any event, I suspect that it will be January before I have time and energy to sculpt or build but there should be a game of some sort within a week. Especially having  had to back out of one today thanks to a bit of a cold bug.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Slam Bang Finish

Last weekend's game was full of surprises. They started on Saturday when I completed the set up, using the grid to help produce a table closer to the scenario map than usual (just for the heck of it) and started to play. I had decided to play the rules straight up as written so printed off a copy and started the first turn. In no time at all I was lost and confused!

After some memory racking followed by checking relevant blog posts I confirmed that the online version had a bunch of proposed changes which I had rejected on the 1st turn of the game played at the start of November. I had essentially played that game out of my head, without notes and, what with this and that, without updating the draft! So, it was back to the drawing board!

One of the things that I liked about the last couple of games but which didn't work as well as hoped with the small units was the half casualty combat results for things like cover. I decided to revert to the cancelling 1 hit method I had been experimenting with for the Square Brigadier last winter. I also decided to return to set dice per unit rather than dice per figure, again. largely due to wanting small fixed units, and returned to the initiative roll without orders dice. All changes that contributed to this game being the best of a bunch of good games this fall.  It would have been a perfect game for the Newport Noodle if the pictures had been sharper and if I'd had time to write it up right away.

** Please Note: In the pictures, figures lying down have gone to ground and been pinned by enemy fireRed dots indicate where hits were scored. Hopefully these will be red and blue markers in future to make it easier to trace the action. Thanks to Chris Parker at Huzzah 2013 for that idea. 
As the Red army (Faraway) appeared, the Blue army (Oberhilse) scrambled to start moving  the supplies over the bridge and retreated the main force covered by a squadron of lancers while leaving 2 companies of  riflemen and an MG holding the town as a rearguard.  By turn 2 Larsen's lancers had swept away the Blue cavalry and pursued the remnant  across the table.

For those without a copy of Scenarios for All Ages, Blue is a defeated army which must retreat its supply train and 75% of its force over the bridge and then destroy the bridge. In this game they had a General, 2 Colonels, 1 cavalry squadron,  1 Heavy Howitzer battery, 1 MG, 6 infantry companies, an Engineer company and, 8 carts and trucks.  I used the normal engineering rules for the demolition. The scenario says it is a wooden bridge and easy to destroy. I translated that to a pontoon bridge that could be destroyed by 6 points of damage.  I also decided that since losses are morale and fatigue as much as casualties that I would rate 25% losses as units not figures. This meant they needed to get 8 of their 10 units back. That's a very small margin and I doubted that they (I) could do it.

Red had 1 General, 3 Colonels, 3 cavalry squadrons, 3 guns, 1 MG and 8 infantry companies.
 They were allowed to bring on 3 units a turn which turned out to be 3 cavalry then 4 waves each with 2 infantry and a gun or MG.  Their mission was just as tricky, prevent the enemy from saving 75% of his troops and all the supplies and capture the bridge intact.  Right.

Blue's rearguard was large enough that the loss of it would force a  draw at least so Red decided to surround it while Blue kicked himself for not having sent the MG back at the start. Since throwing even dismounted cavalry against infantry and an MG dug in around a town didn't sound like a good idea, Red sent the cavalry around and pushed infantry forward into the machine gun fire.  Then he brought up his artillery and sent more infantry to go around the town.

By Turn 6 things were looking up for Blue. 1/2 the vehicles were over the bridge, no units had been lost although the cavalry was in no condition to do anything but retreat. The only sticky bit was that Red cavalry and the growing flood of Red infantry and Mountain Guns working around the flank.

If more of Red's cavalry had had dismounted figures painted up I might have thought to dismount them to block the retreat of the advance guard. As it was there they were on the horses, lances in hand and there was a limbered battery of artillery with only 1 scant company of infantry as an escort. Who would win the initiative?

Red has the initiative! Charge! As they thundered forward, Blue's infantry opened fire while the  gunners grabbed their carbines and struggled to unlimber a gun.  It was 4 dice from the Queen's Lancers for 4,5,6 vs 2 dice from the disordered battery for 5,6 and...... a tie at 1 each!  The horses must have been tired. Blue's infantry also held and both squadrons pulled back to reorganize. Having now been pushed out of one building in Liddleton, Blue began to  withdraw the delaying force while he still could and started to think, maybe, just maybe....
Naturally, this is when Murphy's Law and a scenario special rule come into effect. There is a roll for vehicles crossing the bridge which I translated to 1 score off 2 on 2 dice indicating that a vehicle is broken down and can't move that turn. !!#%@% thought Blue. 

As soon as they were reordered Red's cavalry came thundering back in on the now prepared battery. Probably not a good idea but they came very, very close to trading 1 for 1 rather than being the only one destroyed. Blue's infantry were also hard hit but tied again and fell back through supports which had come up. The Howitzer, with 1 hit left, redoubled its fire.  

By now Red's artillery was pushing forward and soon shells started to rain down on Blue's force, with minimal effect to Red's dismay. In return the Heavy Howitzer justified the time if not the negligible expense of building it. The horse artillery was pummeled to within 1 hit of destruction but hung in until the enemy was forced to switch fire when a Mountain Battery deployed on a spur of the mountain, one shot was enough to nearly destroy it but by then the road was clear and the deadly Howitzer was once more hitched to its tractor and heading for safety covered by a screen of Blue infantry. Red pushed forward, throwing men forward into more rifle and MG fire heedless of losses and driving the enemy back buto  never able to destroy them or get around and block their retreat or attack the engineers.   There was one last chance for a draw, they were in position to attack the intact bridge if only they won the initiative. But.......


Incredibly, despite the heavy fighting, Blue had only lost 1 infantry unit (part of the rearguard)!  Only 1 infantry and the engineers were at full strength but  actual casualties were light and once the rest has rested, reorganized and patched up the lightly wounded, it will be ready to fight again soon.  Red, on the other hand, had lost 3 cavalry units, nearly lost 2 guns and also had several infantry units reduced to 1 or 2 hits and was in no shape to try and force a crossing.  When I cleared away the terrain yesterday, the only thing left was a shocking number of red discs showing where the fighting had been heaviest. Pity I swept them up before thinking of an over head after-the-battle shot.

A complete victory for Blue!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Round 'em Up and Head 'em Out!

Having had nearly a month's break, I have had time to reflect on a few things. One of the major subjects was the background story for my early 20thC Atlantica campaign. I was thinking that the conflict between Faraway and Oerberg (which is what I'm hankering to do right now) escalated into full scale island wide conflict. Those forces aren't ready and won't be for a while so I did some more digging and it turns out that the Oerberg campaign was actually a result of the war in Southern Atlantica reaching a stalemate as both sides dug in. The area north of the mountains was important to both sides due to trade and resources as well as history. It also forms a possible basis for a strategic outflanking maneuver. So it was that, in an effort to break the deadlock, Faraway began to press Oerberg to cease trade with Oberhilse and allow free transit to Faraway troops. We've seen what that request led to. Now its time to go back and find out what happened in the south to cause the stalemate.

When last we checked, Farway troops had just managed to repulse a preemptive Oberhilse attack. The attacking forces had taken heavy losses and were in danger of being cut off by superior numbers and so were forced to retreat precipitously. We catch up with them at the crossing at Little Bridgetown where Faraway's advance guard has marched through the night to catch the Oberhilse army before its supply train could be conveyed across the Hard River. (Scenario 8 in Scenarios for All Ages, a situation eerily familiar to the better known Battle of Sittingbad).

Oberhilse forces wake up and resume the retreat as Faraway cavalry appear on the table edge.
With nearly a month between games the various rules issues and attempts had time to settle a bit. There had been 1 main issue left unresolved and two minor ones. 

The major issue was command control. I had been torn between keeping a DBA-like orders or PIP systems or reverting to an older system of rolling for initiative with a die roll for detached or isolated units. A decision was being held up because I had trouble getting the orders system to work seamlessly with small, medium and large games. I had come up with a solution to that which worked well in the WW1 game I played early this month so now I was now able to compare this to the Atlantica game played in Mid October which used the Initiative method and reach a decision now that the heat of battle had subsided. Since I was satisfied with how each of the alternatives worked, the question was not which was better but rather which had the right "feel" for me in this context.  The result is that I have chosen the initiative system with a die roll for being 'out of command'. 

The second issue was "what is a 'unit' and how many should I have?". Since I am committed to the 4 man company as the basic unit, it was really how should I group them and how to translate scenarios to the table. With the orders system it was a key question. With the initiative, it really just boils down to how many or how few figures I want on the table so I'm leaving it open.

The third issue which I only gave brief consideration to was whether or not to allow continued melees. I have been see-sawing about this question for more than a decade but usually settling on no carried over melees until recently. I'll blame Bob Cordery for getting me thinking about it again (in a good naturedly grateful fashion). The rules would certainly be smoother without carried over melees and I think charges would be even more dramatic. So I'm going to try a one round melee with the attacker breaking contact if neither side is defeated but being capable of renewing the attack next turn.

Right! We are ready to go. Hopefully there will be time Sunday to play.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A bit of late 19thC Canadian military trivia

I knew I had a bit more info  about those elusive Canadian Pacific militia. Finally I remembered where. In 2001  I toured some Ontario battlefields and forts, the Windmill, Ft Henry, Ridgeway, Queenston Heights,  so on. In one of the gift shops I found a book, Tangled Web, Canadian Infantry Accoutrements 1855-1985, Canadian War Museum Historical Publications No. 26, by Jack Summers.

Like many War Museum publications from the last century it is tightly focussed on a obscure subject and a gold mine of information that is hard to find elsewhere. Highly recommended for modellers. Of course none of the museum books published before the current government took power are available unless you stumble across one in the corner of some museum or used bookstore. Could be a coincidence.

Photo from Tangled Web.

This photo is obviously the  inspiration for the Blandford illustration. The proposed equipment was never adopted but the 5 independent companies eventually formed the Rocky Mountain Rangers.

Another picture from Tangled Web, this time from the Boer War. Its not the official uniform with pith helmet but it is reminiscent of the one above.

One last photo.  This is the Yukon Field Force which was a temporary force drawn from the Royal Canadian Regiment, Royal Canadian Dragoons, and the Royal Canadian Artillery.

Any of these pictures could be Faraway troops on campaign in the North.

Again from Tangled Web. Note the 2 styles of hats and footwear. Based on the wide trouser stripes I suspect the squad on the right  are dragoons while the left squad are RCRs.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Farewell To A Fallen Comrade

L to R Steve, Joseph and Tom, early 80's with 15mm Pike & Shot on the table. 

When I first arrived in Halifax in the spring of 1977, on an On Job Training stint aboard HMCS Ottawa, I came armed with the 1970's version of a letter of introduction from Steve Quick, a wargaming friend at CMR: some names and phone numbers of a couple of his wargaming friends back home. So it was that in between  Fisheries patrol, a trip to Frobisher Bay and Hudson's Bay, and a Combat Exercise off Bermuda, I was warmly welcomed into an eclectic group of wargamers. One of these was Joseph Lapin seen above with a hat on some time in the early 80's. 

The group later became a club, The Atlantic Simulation Society (what a battle raged over names). We held regular meetings, some years in public venues, one year in my flat, a newsletter, held an annual regional con and so on.   However, life rolled on and eventually the club faded back to a few friends. When I shut down my brief (18 month) venture into running a Wargames shop (The Tin Soldier), moved out of the city and then started working 7 days a week with a business (slow learner) on top of a job in town, I drifted off as well. Fortunately, some of my friends also worked downtown and I still got to chat over lunch and so on with some of them from time to time. One of those that I had many good painting and wargaming chats with was Joseph Lappin. (seen above

Whenever we met, there was the inevitable "we must get together for a game". Its been at least 5 years or longer since I've seen Joe and that game won't happen now. My latest reunion with some of those gamers from 30 years ago was at  funeral home on Tuesday to honour his life. 

Rest in peace Joseph my friend, and may your dice carry your spirit high.

Thank you to Les Howie for the pictures from back when.
We haven't really changed so much, apart from some migration of hair.

(and hopefully this will be the last memorial post for a while.)


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Setting the scene

One of the curses of gaming in a fictional setting of my own devising is that I can't flip open a book to look up answers when a question crops up. I'm forced to exercise the little grey cells to work on a back story that will hang together, provide me with the sort of games I want to play, tell me what the troops look like and be consistent with past games and blog posts.   Luckily it turns out this mental work is also a joy as well as good for my mental health as the far boundary of middle age slowly creeps ever closer.

Having read enough to get excited about the visual and tactical possibilities of Boer War, GSW and East Africa, the Caucasus and the Mexican Revolution, I have continued to read until I have some sort of handle on the downsides of each as well as the scope of trying to do them all. Falling back on the Atlantica plans laid out a few years ago, it is now my job to figure out what I am willing to do in terms of painting, how many simultaneous campaigns I think I can handle or which I might want to delay to do in serial fashion and how to tie it in to past "history".

The slaughter of modern civilized warfare in Southern Atlantica.

Looking back at what I've done during the last 15 years and 5 years and how much of what was planned didn't get done, inclines me to a tighter focus than trying to do everything. The goal is to have unlimited gaming potential and armies which are table ready sooner while capable of having tidbits added later, almost to infinity. No problem.

South of the mountains we find wars between 2 equivalent, modern, settled countries of Oberhilse and Faraway which puts things on a North American if not European footing. I see no reason that cannot continue into the 20th Century. North of the mountains we have a patchwork including a relatively advanced "native" state, which has yet to appear directly, and a mix of various native and colonial tribes and states which have been involved in various games. My initial instinct was to fight 3 wars, a Boer like war against Oerberg, an Irregular colonial war against the native Atlanticans and their allies the descendents of the mixed blood Brethren of the Coast and a regular war against the native state but it makes more sense to me to combine the first two and leave the last item to an indefinite future. This would meet established pseudo history while combining 3 interests, the Metis rebellions, the Boer Wars and  US dabbling in Mexico as well as allowing me to include aspects of other colonial sideshow campaigns. It doesn't leave much room for cossacks but as long as I have some wild horsemen and some shaggy caps I'll be ok.

Native  Atlanticans from the mid-19th century. One doesn't see naked spearmen anymore but the others remain fairly similar but with modern rifles. (Archive shot from2012)

I'll have to work on some socio-political bits but we know roughly what the Oerberg and Dene forces will look like, with the latter being a bit modernized from their last appearance. The Faraway troops will require choices since they will be homemade. My first instinct was to stay with my idea of WWI British troops in tropical kit but on reflection it doesn't quite fit and is a bit too limiting for the glacial rate at which I sculpt and make molds. Instead I have seized on something that will allow historical units if desired while keeping that Canadian flavour that I like to add. In Blandford's Infantry Uniforms Vol 2 is a plate labelled Pacific Railway Militia. I haven't been able to find out much of anything about them but from Steele's memoirs I believe they were formed largely with a view to quelling civil disobedience more than anything,  but, close enough. They wear drab uniforms with slouch hats turned up, high gaiters (easily painted as puttees) and bandoliers. They would not look out of  place anywhere from the Riel Rebellion to the Boer War to some parts of WWI or South America and something one could have pictured Britain's doing. Of course he could also be painted with a scarlet or dark blue tunic or be easily made into an armed civilian.

That's where I will start, perhaps with extra head in Wolseley pith helmet for conversions.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Looking ahead to the winter of 2014/15

Since the painting desk is now empty and I'm still in a quiet space hobby wise I thought I'd look ahead to the winter and next year.

One for Grampa de Solla who fought through the Great War in the RHA. 

I'm finally starting to accept that the last 15 years of exploration and speculation have come to a natural end. For now there are 2 major collections/campaigns that will get the bulk of my attention in terms of painting and background inventing. The updated version of my renewed, 40 year old, 25mm Medieval/Fantasy campaign is being covered on my Gathering of Hosts blog. The focus here will be my early 20thC  Atlantican campaigns beginning with the war in Oerberg.

The Opening Shots of the Oerberg War.

This is a planned concentration though, not a monopoly. I have some Elastolin Gensdarmes and Landsknecht arquebusiers several years over due and with the NQSYW coming to Huzzah in May, and new Prince August molds available, I hope to add a new regiment before then. I also want to pursue tidying up existing collections to achieve a unified look for each. When it comes to games on the table I expect to retain the usual variety as the mood takes me.

The real priority for the rest of this year though, will be the finishing the reorganization and clean up of my games room including shelves and cupboard. (Not to mention  some new and improved lighting!)


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adventures of Prince Micheal: Episode 15

Episode 15: The Hector Memorial Tourney

At last the big day arrives. Picts, Britons and the Count's
Roman garrison are all there but there is not a Saxon
in sight. It is agreed  that one champion from each
party will vie for each prize.  The Count posts 

extra sentries and declares the games open. The 
1st event is a rock toss. A Pict from
above the Wall has the mightiest toss.

The Javelin Race is a crowd favorite.
The soldiers race around an oval marked
by barrels. When the first runner
 reaches the finish line a horn blows
and all runners must throw. The farthest
javelin wins. One of Michael's Valdurians
makes it to the line and out throws the rest.

Archery is always popular. The archers prepare for a 4th round
 but there is a Bull. The Picts again win the trophy.
At last the knights take the field. In the first 
match Prince Micheal and the Palentine Knight 
draw but  Buidhe soon unseats the Earl's knight.
Prince Micheal now faces Buidhe but breaks his spear
 on the first pass. On the 2nd pass he unseats him
and takes the prize.

The day ends with the Melee, a free for all. When the dust settles,
the disciplined soldiers from the wall hold the field!

Before the overall winner can be announced, there is a stir and an alarm sounds. From the woods dashes a Red Rider, hawk in hand, riding for her life as huge arrows fall around her. As knights and soldiers grab their weapons and run to assist, two tall, strange horsemen appear briefly on the edge of the woods then disappear whence they came. Who are they? Who is the Woman in Red and why were they chasing her?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Coming soon: A New Prince Michael Adventure: The Tourney

Many ancient societies celebrated the deaths of kings and heroes with public ceremonies and games. In the Iliad the Achaen and Trojan games are said to last 12 days and consist of various competitions, races, athletic events and non-lethal duels. I don't have the figures or desire to play Greek athletic events for 12 days but the Irish also held such games as late as early medieval days and that's close enough to King Arthur and Prince Valiant for me.
A crowd gathers beyond The Wall to watch Sir Robin and Dearg Mor.
 So, funeral games for King Hector are being proclaimed throughout the land. Count Hubert has declared a truce so Briton, Roman, Saxon and Pict may all participate. There will be races, spear throwing, archery and of course jousting. For simplicity I am just going to use Medieval Mayhem for races, shooting matches and jousts.

Finally, thank you to all those who sent or left comments and condolences. I have decided not to answer each one individually but I appreciate each of them.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lap Loving Hector, Taker of Naps

Hector was just a wee lost lad when he came to live in my gaming room over the kennel just before the turn of the century. I figured he needed a bold name, like one of the Nine Worthies, so I named him after "Peace Loving Hector, Tamer of Horses",  the son of King Prium of Troy:  He wore it well.
Hector c 2001 napping on his favorite spot, the styrofoam mountain.

I cannot count the hours we spent in that room in my old, patched, leatherette recliner after I'd gotten home from work and our boarding business was closed for the day (or all too often when I was supposed to be finishing the evening chores at the kennel). Him purring and napping, me reading or looking at the shelves of soldiers or the hobby desk full of unfinished projects and daydreaming (or napping...)  He never seemed to nap in the chair when I wasn't there though, instead, he preferred  the styrofoam hills on my wargame table. Cool in summer, warm in winter, after all it could be pretty chilly in that room in winter before my friend Tom helped me install proper heaters and a door.

The choice of napping spots grew wider when we moved to the old farmhouse, 2 favorites being behind the wood stove in winter and under the grapes in summer but my new games room remained a frequent haunt. 

 Hector on a hot summer's day in 2011.
The move was a good one for Hector like the rest of us. Good quarters and lots of company when he wanted it, hayfields, woods and a nearby barn when he didn't.   His new house cat friends were certainly more  cat-social than either of the 2 kennel mousers he had job shared with.  
A tisket, a tasket, three cats in a basket.
Hector, Minou (aka The Minnow) and Merlin (aka Fatcat -my brother-in-law's cat who missed the plane to Edmonton a few years ago.) 
He was a gentle cat, the occasional protest when I'd be removing buzzies from his long hair but never really grumpy. Despite having been "hired" as a mouser, he wasn't really much of a hunter though he did do a little trophy hunting when young, bringing squirrels in to swap for proper cat food. There was one memorable day though almost 10 years ago when a field rat decided to come in and check out the new owners of the old farmhouse which had been vacant for a few years. Just the three of us were here. Whissie the Whippet and Hector vied for the conquest in a cartoon-worthy flurry of activity. They finally cornered him behind a large moving box and both looked expectantly at me. Up to the task, I moved  the box and they collided as we all found out the rodent was able to slip under a closed cupboard door and out his own private exit.   Ahh, old farmhouses! 
The old recliner didn't come with us but my old office chair is pretty comfy. 
Over the last two years though, there has been less and less wandering and more and more napping. There were also other signs that he was not as young as he once was, as indeed there have been with myself but I hoped we'd have a few more years together yet..
The upgraded table has lower pine board hills which are not nearly as comfy, but he still showed up for games often enough. Here he is in 2013.
Yesterday, after a full and good life,  my dear old friend and companion quietly breathed his last breath. He was all a comrade should be and will be sorely missed and fondly remembered. He has had full burial honours and now lays with a soldier guard amongst the flowers of the forest. Traditional Trojan funeral games are being considered.
There are many good pipe versions of this Scottish lament but Hector wasn't particularly fond of the pipes and Fairport Convention's version on the album Full House was a favorite on my record player in college. (oops did't realize there was an upbeat 2nd song but the Hector was never one for brooding and moping.)
Farewell my friend.